Latino Authors and Mentors Group Releases Anthology

By Kathryn White

Poet Ricardo LaFore turned the insult “What have your people ever done?” into a poem. 

“My Ancestors Built the Pyramids” appears in a new anthology to be released this month by the Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors (CALMA). 

“Ramas y Raíces: The Best of CALMA,” edited by Mario Acevedo, contains essays, poetry and short stories by 24 writers who live or have spent significant time in Colorado.

The book’s title, which translates as “Branches and Roots,” reflects the breadth and depth of its themes, as well as the range of genres and literary forms contained within. Seeds for both the anthology and the organization were planted decades ago.

“I grew up at a time when I never ever ever saw a Spanish surname on a book,” said Dr. Ramon Del Castillo, a longtime activist, educator, researcher and poet. “There was a void, there was a link missing about who I was, about who we were. Until the advent of Chicano studies in the 1960s, during the Chicano movement, when one of the issues that came up was literature and poetry. And out of that, you had the birth of thousands of poets now, and a whole body of literature that will compete with anybody’s writing.”

LaFore said the anthology seeks to encourage new writers, but also to preserve and protect what’s already been written.

“We felt that there was a void in our community,” LaFore said. “We recognized from the beginning that in a functioning democracy all voices have to be heard. Our poetry, our literature, our writing, all have to be part of the American literary tradition. Otherwise, we don’t have a functioning democracy that values all voices. We have a proud and noble history, but it’s rarely known beyond our own community. And we had to fix that.”

CALMA itself started with a conversation. It was 2019, and Frank Dávila had published his memoir, “An Outburst of Dreams.” Written largely for his children and grandchildren, Dávila conducted extensive genealogical research in order to preserve and pass along family history. He wove in stories about his growing-up years picking cotton as a migrant worker, speaking Spanish and learning English as his second language. He wanted his family to know about the discrimination he faced. 

That same year, Dávila helped fellow writer Christina Montoya with edits to her first book. 

“We ought to think about forming a group,” Dávila said to Montoya, “where writers can support each other like this.”

Each knew a few others, and a small gathering at Raíces Brewing Company followed. By early 2020, the group had six founders, was hosting Zoom sessions and had grown to more than 30 Latino authors, both published and aspiring.

CALMA went on to host book fairs, lead workshops, and make presentations in high school and college classrooms. Several of the group’s members have taken on formal mentoring relationships.

“Since we formed CALMA,” Dávila said, “two Latinos have been inducted into the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame. Manuel Ramos was the first one ever in 2021. We promoted and advocated for him. And then, Lalo Delgado was selected last year, posthumously.”

Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado (1931-2004), known as the grandfather of Chicano poetry, published 14 books and inspired many, including Del Castillo and LaFore. In the early 1970s, Delgado visited a classroom at the University of Northern Colorado, where he met Del Castillo and noticed his poetry.

“It was Lalo who told me, ‘Use everything you’ve got Ramon. Your humor, your sadness, all of it.’”

“Ramas y Raíces” opens with the Mexican proverb, “Quisieron enterrarnos, pero no sabían que éramos semilla (They wanted to bury us, but they didn’t know that we were seeds),” setting the stage for a volume demonstrating the many ways love, family, personal struggle and the fight for justice have borne fruit.

“Ramas y Raíces” will be available for purchase at a book launch event on Saturday, June 29, from 2-4 p.m., at Lakewood United Methodist Church. Learn more about CALMA at

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